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India ready to fight hunger in Bangladesh as public foodgrain stocks fall

Bangladesh's public foodgrain stocks fall, India ready to help

Bangladesh could reach out to India as public foodgrain stocks dip  to a three-year low.

Lower stocks of foodgrain would dent the government’s subsidised food distribution for the poor. “This will affect the food security of many poor people," Bangladesh based The Daily Star quoted former director general of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS), Quazi Shahabuddin as saying. 

Sources said that Dhaka could seek a larger import of foodgrains from India amid rising concerns. Bangladesh has already reduced import duty on rice to 25 per cent from a high 62.5 per cent to facilitate imports of the grain in the country. Rice imports into the country from India and Singapore could go up to 2.5 lakh tonnes.

Last year, Bangladesh placed an order of 150,000 tonnes of non Basmati rice in a government to government deal with India. However, reports suggested that India is willing to increase supply. Rice forms an integral part of every Bangladeshi’s daily diet.

India willing to supply more, analysts said sudden bans on food items dampen relations

A source said that New Delhi is open to supplying more rice and other agriculture products to its neighbour.

“Production of rice has been high in the current financial year, there is enough stock for domestic consumption, which includes a substantial quantity required for public distribution system. We are in a position to increase supply of rice to Dhaka in case there is a demand from that side,” a person familiar with the development said. However, he also noted that in the past, New Delhi’s sudden decisions to ban exports of food and agro-products have had a bearing on India-Bangladesh relations.

“Not just bilateral relations, but such sudden decisions impact exporters too. Naturally the importing country will be reluctant to place orders with Indian exporters,” the person said, adding that this is an area of concern.

Last year, India had all of a sudden stopped export of onions with rising inflationary pressures. Besides, heavy rains in many parts of the country also impacted production and supply.

“While there may be valid reasons for such sudden bans, it does lead to other complexities,” the person explained.

In fact, Hasina, had brought it up at the India Bangladesh Business Forum saying that the sudden ban created problems in her country. 

There may be compelling political reasons for India to open its warehouses to the Bangladeshis. India wants to do everything possible to maintain its special relations with Bangladesh–a country which was liberated with strong Indian support. Unsurprisingly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has gone out of his way to befriend Bangladesh, which is set to celebrate 50 years of its liberation from Pakistan. Consequently the Prime Minister has staked his personal capital to celebrate the occasion with year long observance of joint events. Modi is expected to travel to Bangladesh next month.

India is also keen to build closer ties to discourage Bangladesh from developing an excessively close relations with China, whis has been making a frenzied effort to muscle its way into South Asia, including Bangladesh.